Through my career and personal life I have been involved in a decent amount of international parcel shipping. Unfortunately it rarely goes as smoothly as you might hope.
In my career I have worked for several small e-commerce companies. Smooth shipping was always a big concern, particularly when shipping internationally where all kinds of other problems can arise. When paying high shipping fees, you want to be sure your shipment is going to arrive safely and in a timely manner. Of course you also don’t want to waste a bunch of time on the process.
In my personal life, my mom worked overseas for several years. So to send any presents to her and my step dad, I’d have little choice but to pay for international shipping. In those cases it was more about getting the package delivered by a certain date and ensuring the package arrived intact. Considering the country she was in, that was always a bit of a gamble.
So what can we do to ensure the shipping process goes smoothly when shipping from one country to the next?
Choosing A Reliable Company – When you are shipping something a long distance, you don’t want to take your chances with a small company with minimal experience. A less experienced company might not know the ins and outs of quickly clearing customs in the destination country. Or they might not know other details of a country’s standard practices for package delivery. On the other hand, a more experienced company with a strong reputation will have shipped countless packages to that country. They will have perfected the process and learned from mistakes over the years.
Always Insure International Shipments – Even with the bigger companies, all sorts of problems can arise when trying to get a package delivered internationally. Maybe the customs agency in the destination country isn’t as reliable or trustworthy as you might assume. Or sometimes when a package is sent a long distance, it may have been mishandled and damaged along the way. Protect yourself by paying the small insurance fee for some peace of mind. Without the insurance you could be out of luck if your package goes missing or gets damaged. If you are importing goods, you may want to involve a import letters of credit as a layer of insurance so that you are only paying when certain terms are met by the exporter.
Familiarize Yourself With The Country’s Customs Rules – Rather than just shipping blindly, you should be aware of what kind of rules the country has when it comes to customs. There is often limitations on what kind of products can be imported. The product you are shipping may be technically allowed, but the type of product may result in slower shipping. For example, when I shipped DVDs to my mom, the shipment was rather late as the customs department was forced to check for digital content that was illegal in that country. They also felt the need to crush the included baked goods in case something was hidden inside.
Give Extra Time For Delivery – I learned this one the hard way by shipping packages too close to when they needed to get there. Shipping from one country to another is never as smooth as shipping within your own country. Customs is usually to blame for any kinds of delays, but there are cases where the country’s delivery process is just outdated and inefficient. So give yourself the extra time or don’t give the recipient overly optimistic delivery time expectations.
Lastly, if you are importing for a business, learn the various corporate banking jargon so that your shipment financing goes smoothly. When making a large payment to a foreign entity, there may be technicalities that may delay your payment. The more you can understand the banking fine print, the better prepared you will be. You don’t want a delayed payment to leave your shipment waiting for delivery, or worse yet, shipped back to the exporter’s country.
Have you had any bad experiences with shipping from one country to another? Are there any tips you would recommend? Or maybe you have a story of a bad shipping experience within your country?